LOS ANGELES – Two sounds constantly filled the air at Eso Won Books this week – the beeping of the register and the murmur of continual conversation.
James Fugate is one of the co-owners of the shop. He and Thomas Hamilton first opened the business in 1987 but they have never been this busy, with Fugate barely able to finish a thought before having to run off to open the door or answer a question.
“Let me let them in," Fugate said mid-sentence, noticing another customer waiting to come inside.
Part of the response to George Floyd’s death has been a surge in demand for books about race and anti-racism. Eso Won has sold out of the book How to Be an Anti-Racist, with hundreds of backorders. In general, Fugate says they have had so many online orders this week, they had to stop accepting them.
“We have a website which is literally overwhelmed right now," Fugate said.
Not that he is complaining. This is what booksellers love, he says, a steady stream of customers looking for recommendations, hungry for knowledge or in this case, understanding.
“They want to understand better," Fugate said of the people flocking to his Leimert Park store. "These are not people who are ignorant of race or anything. They just want to understand more.”
Even Governor Gavin Newsom stopped in on Wednesday and left with a few titles.
“I recommended Chokehold," Fugate said. "But he bought a lot of kids books and some other things too.”
Kid books have been particularly popular he says with parents looking for ways to talk to their children about what’s happening in our country. But what worries Fugate is a lack of material for the age group he thinks is most pivotal: young adults.
“That’s when they are forming ideas about how they are going to interact with the world," Fugate said. "And so we need more books and we need to talk to them in a different way at that age.”
For the 65-year-old Detroit native, George Floyd’s story is tragically familiar, but Fugate says this moment feels different.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. Even after Trayvon Martin. Even after Rodney King. Never anything like this," Fugate said. "And I think this is going to be that seed that changes things. And I just hope people go out and vote because this is going to be a defining moment.”
An important chapter still being written in the history of race relations.
Book Recommendations from Eso Won Books: